By JONAH LOSSIAH
One Feather Staff
At its second meeting of May, the Cherokee Central Schools (CCS) Board of Education reviewed a dissertation request submitted to them by an enrolled member.
Villareal Nika West, a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians who grew up in Cherokee and currently works at Ha-Ber High School in Springdale, AR., sent a letter to the Board with his request. This dissertation is for his doctoral program in Educational Leadership at Arkansas State University. The letter states the following:
“This summer of 2021, I will begin the first chapter of my doctoral dissertation through Arkansas State University. I plan to examine how the pandemic of COVID-19 affected the educational process of both Indian tribes: The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) and The Cherokee Nation (CN). I wish to do a combined qualitative and quantitative study that will examine and compare similar test scores within both tribal education programs with an end goal of ascertaining how the pandemic affected test scores from 2019 to 2021. Parent, teacher, and student interviews will be conducted through zoom, surveys and face to face. I am writing to request permission to conduct my research in your school(s) on this reservation.”
Several members of the Board were quick to question the level of confidentiality that West would offer in their report. Karen French-Browning was the first to voice her concern.
“The only problem I have with it is I just don’t want it to put out there, ‘Cherokee Central Schools: this is their test data.’ Even if it is with the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma. Most of the schools in Cherokee Nation are not tribal schools. They go to public schools. I don’t want to have anything negative showing on the Eastern Band,” said French-Browning.
She stated that she wanted pure anonymity for the school, and that she wished for there to not even be a reference to Cherokee Central Schools in the data comparison.
West states in their letter that ‘all information collected will be confidential and will be used for this research project along with benefiting current and future Cherokee students in case of another global pandemic or relapse of the current pandemic.’ French-Browning, however, wished for more security. She said that any comparison of CCS scores would be out of context and unjust.
“I don’t want anything negative. I mean, we got some smart kids, yes. But, as you all know, most of our kids don’t test well,” said French-Browning.
Tara Reed-Cooper added onto French-Browning’s points and shared her worries as well.
“I’ve got concerns about it. He’s an enrolled member that’s trying to do good for our community, I’m sure. But at the same time, we don’t want to have a negative effect on our students to say that our school’s not up to par when that’s not the case. And we may come out ahead. But public school to a BIE school is not really a comparison in my mind,” said Reed-Cooper.
The Board agreed to request additional information on what he’s looking to ascertain from studying the test scores. They will address this at the next Board meeting.
The next piece of ‘new business’ that was handled was a final report from Vice Principal Beverly Payne on the funding from the American Rescue Plan Act. This the third batch of COVID relief payments coming to CCS, and it is unique as well. Payne described it as having no expiration for expenditure, so the administration is finishing a 5-year plan for the funds. The final documentation for this funding needed to be submitted this week.
The significant aid totals $11,790,150. Payne said that the school will be using it for a plethora of resources, including temporary salary payments to add new positions. She said that this is not usually something the school would look towards for temporary funding but given the amount of money it could offer multiple years of valuable position. She said this money will do a lot in their efforts as the school transitions back to normality and looks to boost forward.
The first guests of the evening were Sarah Davis and Jennifer Muse from the Mountain Credit Union to offer a check to CCS, specifically raising funds for Cherokee athletics. They have been collecting money from the sales of ‘spirit cards’ since January of 2019. The check was made out for $1,370, and Davis says she hopes that that number can be higher moving forward with the return of sporting events and the ease of the pandemic.
Before their guests arrived, the Board passed the consent agenda. Three items were briefly pulled for separate voting, this was done simply because a Board member needed to abstain from the vote due to a personal relationship with the individual involved with the resolution.
In a few brief moments, the Board passed 137 resolutions. The majority of these were confirming staff for the CCS Summer school programs.
The final portion of the meeting was offered to hold a meet and greet with the current Cherokee Boys Club Board of Directors. The CBC Board is made up of Benny Graves (President), CBC General Manager Greg Owle, Tiffani Reed (Secretary), Dick Crowe, and Doris Johnson. Tara Reed-Cooper also sits on the CBC Board of Directors.
The Monday, May 17 meeting of the CCS Board of Education was called to order at 4:45 p.m. with Chairperson Jennifer Thompson; Vice Chair Isaac Long; Secretary Tara Reed-Cooper; Board members, Karen French-Browning, and Regina Ledford Rosario; Wolftown Tribal Council Representative Chelsea Saunooke; Asst. Superintendent Beverly Payne; HR Director Heather Driver; and School Board Assistant Sunnie Clapsaddle all in attendance. Board member Gloria Griffin and Superintendent Michael Murray were announced as excused absentees for the meeting.
The next meeting of the CCS School Board is scheduled for Monday, June 7 at 4:45 p.m. The Board meets in the Chief Joyce Dugan Cultural Arts Center on the campus of Cherokee Central Schools.